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Jun 28, 2018

What was your first experience at a large industry convention? I just attended my first National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) convention this week and it definitely did not disappoint. From legislative updates and professional development to networking and awards celebrations, it was a full event. 

But, the most amazing aspect was seeing our association grapple with the current industry challenges and discuss innovative solutions. 

I’m sharing our team’s top seven takeaways from this year’s NAHU convention…

1. New ideas to decrease healthcare costs

In 2018, the cost of healthcare for a typical American family of four covered by an average employer-sponsored plan is $28,166. In 2008, the cost was in the $16,000 range. Based on that trend, we’ll be around $44,000 in 10 years. According to one of the speakers on a panel, “Costs are going up and it’s up to us to figure out how to stop it or we won’t be in business in 5 years.” In this session, we learned about some innovative ideas to help, like level-fundingdirect primary carereference-based pricingfree market surgery centers, international prescriptions, and using a TPA to help administer these ideas. The end was summed up well by David Berman of Berman Insurance Services who noted, “Brokers need to drive change and figure out how to start installing these strategies.”

2. Value-based care

We heard from Dr. Josh Luke who said 6 words killed American healthcare: “Don’t worry, insurance will pay for it.” He pointed out that we’ve been brainwashed to think “if something is cheaper, it can’t be as good.” Similar to the point above, there were a couple sessions that challenged this notion and explored the topic of value-based care. With all that’s going on, how do we intelligently design plans to properly steer people to lower cost, higher quality healthcare options? 

If you’ve gone to an employee benefits conference lately or watched your LinkedIn feed, you’ve heard from some brokers who seem to be doing this with success. David Contorno of Lake Norman Benefits broke down a few ideas about how he’s approaching value-based care…

  • Outpatient specialty surgical arrangements. Work with providers who will take a set price for common procedures. There’s no complicated billing, no back office, no price changes if infections or complications occur. 
  • International prescription programs
  • Disease management. If employees are engaged with a nurse manager, the employer covers ALL expenses.
  • Direct Primary Care 
  • A mandatory second opinion program. David noted that, when an employee gets a second opinion, the course of treatment changes 82% of the time, and 90% of the time, it’s at less cost with a less invasive treatment.

While some brokers are doing this with success, industry thought leader, Kevin Trokey of Q4intelligence wrote this article that encourages brokers to “Maintain a sense of urgency, but take a deep breath, relax a bit, and lay out an overall strategy as to how you will position yourself to use these ideas most effectively.”

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3. Legislative changes

The legistlative hot topic was Association Health Plans (AHP). Last week, the Labor Department released a final ruling, so Janet TrautweinMarcy Buckner and team explained what the new rules call for, how they’ll work, what safeguards are in place, and how NAHU was able to influence a few details that will help stabilize these offerings in the marketplace. Listen to this 17 minute podcast on the NAHU Healthcare Happy Hour (and be sure to subscribe). The NAHU team also provided details for brokers to help clients receiving 226J Letters or 227 Letters from the IRS. You can learn what they said in this article posted to the NAHU Compliance Corner Blog. 

4. Average brokers vs leading producers

A custom survey was done by the Leading Producers Round Table (LPRT), a premier program to recognize top health, disability, long-term care and worksite marketing insurance producers, carrier reps, carrier management, and general agency/agency managers. The survey compared how average brokers serve their clients versus those brokers who achieved LPRT status. The results were reviewed and discussed with LPRT top qualifiers during an exclusive luncheon. The following key distinctions were:

  • They have a much higher client retention rate - attributed to better communication, tools and strategies
  • They fill their prospect pipeline differently, more often calling on their expertise by giving presentations and writing

5. Leadership begins with Y-O-U 

James C. Hunter, world-renowned author and inspirational speaker, offered a fresh take on an old axiom that leaders aren’t born, they’re made. And the process of becoming a great leader is something that requires great strength of character because leadership is doing what people need, not necessarily what they want. He explained that there’s no shortage of great leadership opportunities because they can be found in almost every aspect of our daily lives – at our jobs, as parents, with our spouses and in our communities. As we’re doing that, we need to continually monitor how our character is progressing by soliciting feedback from those around us. In the end, he reminded us that becoming a better leader is up to us every day, and challenged us to ask ourselves: Do people raise their game in your presence? Do they leave you better than you found them? 

6. We have inspiring peers

On Sunday afternoon, several colleagues shared their personal experiences overcoming intense challenges in a series of short TED-like talks. If there’s one word that characterizes these amazing lessons, it’s perseverance. Almost every story bore witness to the immense challenges life can throw at each of us. From illness to death, addiction to amputation, all of the stories inspired us with overcoming adversity and fighting through the bad to get to the good. One other interesting commonality: each speaker seemed genuinely better because of the adversity they’d endured. It formed, shaped and built them into better individuals. It made me proud to work in the same industry with these inspiring peers. With this same perserverance, we can help overcome the challenges facing the healthcare industry.  

7. Recurring ideas

Throughout the classes, discussions and exhibits, these ideas popped up repeatedly...

  • The challenge of and approaches to solve the opioid crisis
  • Philanthropic savings accounts
  • Approaches to bring new and younger talent into the industry – and agencies
  • Software and services for employee engagement and benefit administration. 
  • And since what is old is new again, cross-selling ancillary services to better serve your customer

Now it’s your turn. What other insights or highlights did you have from this year’s NAHU convention? Comment below or email me at


Neil is Vice President of Sales for freshbenies where he strategizes with brokers and employers on how to control their healthcare dime, time and peace of mind. He previously worked for Cigna in a strategy and marketing capacity and also ran sales and marketing for a provider-owned health plan. Neil and his wife are raising three young (energetic!) sons. He can be reached at 

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